Keegan Bell's assists lift Mocs

Keegan Bell's assists lift Mocs

January 12th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Keegan Bell motions to his teammates in the first period of UTC's game against Longwood University in the Dr. Pepper Classic held at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

Point guard Keegan Bell doesn't necessarily have a favorite play in the Mocs' offensive playbook.

Whatever the call, Bell's favorite play ends with him earning an assist.

It doesn't matter whether the assist come in transition, as a result of their base ball-screen motion offense, or off a set play called by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman.

Bell just wants his buddies making buckets.

"It's all about guys getting open and coach putting me in position to attack and get guys shots," Bell said. "I love getting other people involved. When I kick it and guys knock down shots, it's like I scored.

"When I see guys open I get them the ball."

Bell is No. 4 in the nation -- out of all 300-plus Division I teams -- in assists per game. He dishes out an average of 7.5 assist per game.

His contributions will be necessary tonight when UTC (8-9, 2-2 SoCon) faces defending Southern Conference champion Wofford (9-7, 2-2) in McKenzie Arena, which is where the Terriers punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament last March.

"A lot of guys will go for 12 [points] and five [assists] tonight and tomorrow," Shulman said. "We don't have great creators of shots. I don't want to call play after play after play."

Iona guard Scott Machado leads the nation at 10 assists per game, followed by Kendall Marshall of North Carolina and then Jessee Sanders of Liberty.

Next on the list is Bell.

He's averaged 8.8 assists per contest against SoCon competition. Bell's assist rate has improved year by year because Shulman calls fewer and fewer set plays per game and relying on UTC's base ball-screen motion.

Bell is smoking the UTC record of 6.8 assists per game set by Tim Brooks in the 1991-92 season.

"I love reading defenses and being in any situation to attack as opposed to waiting for a call," Bell said. "That helps me because I'm an up-tempo guy."

Bell recorded seven assists in UTC's last-second 65-63 win over Appalachian State on Saturday. He did so without 3-point specialist Omar Wattad who spent the game on the bench with back problems instead of on the wings nailing 41.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

Shulman said Wattad is "50-50," for today's game. It will likely be a game-time decision.

It's more than likely that Bell will have fellow senior guard Ricky Taylor on the floor despite an injury to the inside of his right wrist.

"He makes my job easier so that all I have to do is spot-up and KB will find me, and his passes are crisp and sharp and he has an IQ out of this world," Taylor said. "We have to make a lot of eye-contact and we do that in practice and we can see the play before it happens.

"We're on the same page and one step ahead."